- Food & Drink
I’ve had niggling doubts about my 1st review of Nautilus ever since I pressed publish. I’d said how the food was delicious, the service was swift and the prices completely shocking for a Londoner (no, really, Ireland, you’re very expensive), but was my conclusion fair or was it born of my Hulk-like rage at not being able to eat Irish food anywhere?
And my rage is still pretty green and colossal about that. I didn’t come across a single restaurant or cafe while I was in Cork (and briefly Dublin) that served anything you could describe as Irish food, apart from ubiquitous baskets of soda bread. An international hodge podge of French bistro and Italian trattoria, chicken curry, salmon terriyaki, ciabattas, panini, Caesar salads and miscellaneous Mediterranean muddles dominated every menu I read.
The only places I ever spied anything as obvious, even, as Irish stew were pubs, who seemed to be content to serve boil-in-the-bag slop alongside nuclear nachos and hamburgers. But doesn’t the cuisine deserve better than that? Shouldn’t someone be so delighted by their culinary heritage that they’re prepared to cook it and serve it to the public? Where is the great food of Ireland? Answers in the comments section please.
However, the lack of Irish restaurants is not Nautilus’ fault and although their menu winds its way from pâtés and terrines through bruschetta to chicken tandoori like everybody else’s, they have the benefit of doing it superbly.
So on a Saturday night, after our triumphant lunch in Cobh, Trevor, Badger and I settled down in the bright restaurant room and paid careful attention as the waiter reeled off the list of daily specials with prices (full marks for giving us the prices upfront and not surprising us with a shocking bill later).
One of the specials was mackerel with tapenade, which the waiter told us he’d caught himself that morning. I couldn’t disappoint him by not ordering it and I was rewarded with a dish that layered 3 types of oiliness – the rich fish, the earthy tapenade and a slick of zippy olive oil – to addictive affect. A soft, sweet, acidic tomato balanced the plate.
Trevor and Badger both ordered the Ardsallagh goat’s cheese bruschetta and agreed that the cheese was great, the bruschetta a little well toasted (hard to saw their knives through) and the portion slightly massive for a starter.
A solid slab of slow roasted hake sitting on creamy mash was my main course. It came with a fancy fan of asparagus, a pool of beurre blanc and a little crispy pancetta hat. A perfect example of classic modern bistro fare. Trevor ordered the chicken pasta, which she said was nice but by that time her throat infection was taking hold and she looked like she’d be as happy laying face down in her dinner sleeping as eating it. Badger definitely ordered something for her main course, probably fish, but the bill doesn’t specify and I can’t remember. Perhaps she will enlighten us.
Completely stuffed, we skipped desserts in favour of coffee and herbal teas. The bill, which included a bottle of chirpy prosecco, came to €118, not including service, which isn’t really expensive for food as good as this (I’m finally accustomed to Irish pricing and always spending €40 on dinner, wherever I am).
It was a good meal and when my parents came to collect me and my belongings, Nautilus is where we came for our final meal in Ireland – I don’t think there’s a better recommendation than that.